KU News Release


March 24, 2011
Contact: Mike Krings, University Relations, 785-864-8860

Professor receives highest international award for pharmaceutical science

Val Stella


LAWRENCE — A distinguished professor at the University of Kansas has won the highest international academic award given in the pharmaceutical sciences, an honor named for legendary KU pharmaceutical chemist Takeru Higuchi.

The American Pharmacists Association has announced that Valentino J. Stella, University Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, is the 2011 recipient of the Takeru Higuchi Research Prize.

Stella, whose mentor was Higuchi, was chosen for his contributions to pharmaceutical sciences including the novelty and originality of his research programs; his success in translating the findings into commercial products that are being used clinically to treat humans; the impact of his research findings on the industrial scientists who are responsible for discovering drugs and for developing drug formulations; and his dedication and commitment to teaching and mentoring student pharmacists and visiting scientists.

“Tak was a great mentor, and I am extremely honored and humbled to be receiving this award,” Stella said.

The award was established in 1981 in honor of Higuchi, the first president of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Pharmaceutical Research and Science. It recognizes the highest accomplishments in pharmaceutical sciences and is open to researchers from around the world. Stella will receive the award at the association’s annual meeting March 25-28 in Seattle, Wash.

“Val is recognized worldwide for his significant contributions in the pharmaceutical sciences and is most deserving of this award,” said Ken Audus, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “The fact that the award is named for his mentor will be particularly meaningful to Val and very noteworthy in affirming that Tak Higuchi’s unique spirit of entrepreneurship has continued to flourish through a very creative and highly regarded distinguished professor in the pharmaceutical sciences at KU.”

In addition to his appointment at KU, Stella is the inventor or co-inventor on 37 patents that have led to drugs for the treatment of epilepsy, cancer and AIDS and an anesthetic. He regularly presents his research findings within academia and industry, throughout Europe, Asia and North America, delivering more than 500 invited lectures throughout his career. He has authored, coauthored or edited more than 40 authoritative review articles and seven books over the past 40 years.

“Seldom in modern history has the pharmaceutical sciences field had a scientist who was able to so frequently translate research findings into commercial products being used to treat humans,” wrote one of Stella’s colleagues in a nomination letter. “His contributions to the pharmaceutical sciences through both basic and applied research have been significant and abundant. Amongst most academic and industrial scientists working in the research areas of pharmaceutical cyclodextrin and prodrugs, Professor Stella would be considered amongst the ‘leading experts’ in the world.”

Stella, a native of Melbourne, Australia, received a pharmacy degree from the Victorian College of Pharmacy. He completed a doctorate in analytical pharmaceutical chemistry at KU, where he studied under Higuchi. Stella is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and the Cyclodextrin Society of Japan.

Higuchi, known as the “father of physical pharmacy,” was a KU faculty member from 1967 to 1987. He was a pioneer of combining theoretical research with drug production, published more than 300 scientific papers and was awarded more than 50 patents. KU’s Higuchi Biosciences Center is named in his honor.


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